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Advantages and Disadvantages of a BullPup firearm

Advantages and disadvantages of a BullPup Rifle or Shotgun Are you in the market for a new rifle or shotgun? Maybe you’re trying to decide if a bullpup design would be advantageous in your circumstances. There are some caveats to this design, so make sure you are aware of the advantages and disadvantages of a BullPup Rifle or Shotgun.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a BullPup Rifle or Shotgun

What is a Bullpup stock?

Bullpup” describes a modern firearm configuration, in which the action is located behind the trigger group, and alongside the shooter’s face. In this layout, there is no wasted space for the buttstock, as there is in a conventional or traditional firearm design.

Advantages of the Bullpup Configuration

Length and Weight

The bullpup configuration permits a shorter total firearm length, while maintain the same barrel length, typically reducing the weapon’s length overall around 25%.

Not your granddad's shotgun!

Not your granddad’s shotgun!

Maneuverability

This compact design offers improved maneuverability in confined spaces, and reduces weight. A bullpup is typically held closer to the body, therefore this design may provide the advantage of causing less fatigue to the user when the arm is outstretched for long periods of time. This coupled with the reduced weight, may also provide a small reaction time advantage in raising the firearm to firing position from a downward pointed direction.

So far that sounds awesome.

Disadvantages or Shortcomings of the Bullpup Configuration

Ejection ports

One shortcoming of bullpups is that, by design, their ejection ports are close to the face. This makes it difficult for left-handed shooters to use, because firearms in general have their ejection port on the right-hand side.

If the ejection ports is on the right side, that means that spent cartridge casings are ejected towards the right, and since the ejection port is now closer to the face, lefty’s will be getting lots of hot brass in their faces. Unless you left handed shooters want to shoot right-handed, you’ll have to shop around for BullPups that have left side, or bottom ejection ports.

They do exist!

  • FAMAS assault rifle, the Steyr AUG and the Israeli Tavor TAR-21 have overcome this limitation, by allowing the bolt and ejection port cover to be swappable, turning the weapon into a left-handed version.
  • The FN P90 ejects downward
  • The FN F2000 and Kel-Tec RFB eject forward of the rifle.
  • The Heckler & Koch G11 use caseless ammunition; in the event that a round fails to fire it can be manually ejected downward.

Proximity to face/head

If a bullpup firearm has a catastrophic failure, instead of the explosion happening six or eight inches in front of your eyes, it’s occurs right at your eyesocket, or touching your cheekbone or ear. Of course, if the bolt explodes out the back of the firearm, it doesn’t end up in your eye socket. We’ll call this a Pseudo-advantage.

Balance

The bullpup’s extra weight towards the rear of the firearm, may adversely affect balance, with respect to muzzle rise and automatic firing accuracy.

Lack of Length

The bullpup, being more compact and having an overall shorter length, allows for greater close-in weapons usage; but this would nullify the effectiveness of a bayonet’s added length and reach.

Ok, maybe some of these disadvantages make the bullpup sound a tad bit less awesome!

Quick Breakdown of Advantages and Disadvantages of a BullPup firearm:

Advantages Disadvantages
  • Up to 25% shorter weapon, while maintaining for the same barrel length
  • Reduced Weight (less fatigue)
  • May provide a small reaction time advantage in raising the firearm to firing position from a downward pointed direction
  • Improved maneuverability in confined spaces
  • bolt being ejected from rear of firearm, may not kill you
  • Most firearms have their ejection port on the right-hand side.
  • Firearm malfunctions happen right beside your face
  • weight towards the rear of the firearm, may affect balance
  • shorter length makes bayonet reach shorter

As you may have started to notice, the positives and negatives seem to almost cancel each other out.

Does the Bullpup have an advantage?

I can see an advantage of having a bullpup stock, when used in a home defense situation. The compact design, which allows for  improved maneuverability in confined spaces, would make a shotgun more effective in the hallways and rooms of an average home.

What is my take on the bullpup design? I’ll convert one of my shotguns to a bullpup configuration, strictly for home defense, and leave my other firearms as is..

 

4 comments

  1. I really like the Bullpup configuration. One advantage I would add to the list would be: you maintain all the ballistic benefits of a longer barrel in a shorter package.

    As a prepper we all know that the shotgun is a great weapon and can be used to hunt with or defend yourself.

    The Bullpup shotgun is a great example of this. Not only can it clear corners and be a great tactical gun for self defense; but it works really well for hunting Turkey, Wild Pigs, and even Deer with a slug! I can easily sit on the ground or in a stand with a more compact weapon, but I still have an 18″ barrel if I need to reach out! Perfect!

  2. I did try the Tar-21 shooting off hand and I found a number of things that I do not like. The muzzle is closer to my ears. The action rides on my cheek (feel). The front is too light so it is harder aiming for the second shot. When I run out of ammo I would be left with a shorter club. I shoot much more accurate with my M4 style carbine.

  3. Shame that this factual inaccuracy keeps getting repeated ad nauseum.

    There is no such thing as muzzle rise due to the weight of the gun being in front or in the rear of a gun

    (1) Newton’s laws of physics already shows that an item that stays at rest tends to stay at rest. When you aim a rifle and steady your breathing, the rifle is already in equilibrium. All the forces acting on the rifle are cancelling each other out, i.e. Gravity has been cancelled out by the upward forces produced by your arms/hands.

    (2) Newton’s other two laws says that an object that stays at rest tends to stay at rest. It only moves only when there is a force acting on it, and that there is an equal and opposite reaction when forces act on it.

    Based on the above, muzzle rise has nothing to do with the centre of gravity of the gun (front heavy or rear heavy). It occurs only if the recoil of the gun causes:

    (a) your upper body/spine to bend or move backwards therefore causing the gun that you are holding in your arm to point upwards.

    Think of this as a stationary rocking chair with a horizontal broom stick attached to it. When you rock it backwards, the stick starts to rotate and point upwards.

    Solution: Better standing stance, which will reduce but probably cannot eliminate it.

    (b) a rotational force caused by the rifle butt contact point with the shoulder being LOWER than the horizontal line of the barrel.

    It is amazing that so many people still fail to understand this. The legendary Eugene Stoner addressed this in the 1960s Vietnam war era when he designed the M16 to be a straight-line recoil design constructed so that it is a straight line from muzzle to the rifle butt.

    All rifles prior to the M16 had the rifle butt designed to be lower than the muzzle tip for eye relief, including the AK-47. Of course they rotated at the pivot (which is where the rifle butt touches the shoulder). This is elementary grade school physics called “moment (or torque) of a force about a turning point is the force multiplied by the perpendicular distance to the force from the turning point” – wikipedia.

    All modern rifles (including bullpups) now use this straight line recoil design. This eliminates (2).

    Modern extremely high speed video has long since confirmed a lot of things about recoil. Please understand this before you write nonsense like bullpup-muzzle-rise-due-to-heavy-rear. No such thing.

    Also there is no such thing as a bullpup being difficult to acquire repeat rapid shots due to the lightness of the front end. Because it is closer to the body the recoil is closer to the body’s centre of gravity and should therefore theoretically be easier to control. Think of it as a fireman holding the spraying end of a firehose as close to the body as possible. He wouldn’t hold it one meter in front of him or with a straightened arm would he?

    • Hi Apollo,
      what you are saying about physics is not quite true and more importantly irrelevant as argument. That is because you look at it in a wrong way, just observing forces. When fired there will be backward force and it will be a bit off line of barrel, hence there will be a recoil force momentum, as well as straight force backwards.Rise of the barrel is due to the force momentum. That force momentum is better counter-balanced if weight of the rifle is more forward or to put it in terms of physics : moment of inertia for regular designs is larger ( hence recoil rise of muzzle- less) then for bull-pup design. It is a moment of inertia that matters and that is totally function of distribution of masses.
      Unrelated to what you wrote: standard layout has other advantages: easier manipulation of weapon
      during jamming situations, easier and more natural change of ammo clips, ease of attachment of grenade launchers and accessories , to name few. That is the reason why major militaries never really switched to bull-pup design. Advantages of “quicker manipulation” is short quarters battle, are minor and easily neutralized with proper battle tactics.

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